November 11, 2006

An Interesting Exclusion

The Washington post publishes this piece on race, gender, and presidential politics today -- Is America too Racist for Barack? Too Sexist for Hillary?

The 2006 elections were for the technocrats and the operatives, pitting the Democratic tacticians against the Karl Rove machine. But the next election is already beginning to look quite different: 2008 may be one for the novelists.

Viewers of the election returns late on Tuesday, after all, got an early start on the iconography of the next presidential race. The cable networks' cameras cut between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, thanking her supporters for an overwhelming victory in the New York Senate race, her husband standing pointedly behind, and a smiling Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, giving cautious, professorial analysis to the television viewers. Nobody noted the significance, but it stared us all in the face: The two presumed leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination are a woman and an African American.

Their candidacies -- coming after elections resulting in the presumed first female speaker of the House and the second black governor since Reconstruction -- suggest that the next elections may play in ways that are more cultural and symbolic than tactical and political. Are Americans ready to put a black man or a woman in charge of the country? And does the hefty symbolism that Obama and Clinton would bring help one of them more than the other -- in other words, is the country more racist or more sexist?

Of course, this commentary makes some incredible assumptions -- assumptions that need to be challenged.

Does the author, Rolling Stone national affairs correspondent Benjamin Wallace-Wells really believe that a vote against Obama is a vote against blacks? That a vote against Clinton is a vote against women? Is it really his contention that ideas, policies, and ideology don't matter -- that candidates are and should be judges by the color of their skin or the genitalia between their legs, not the content of their character or (just as importantly) the content of their policy statements?

If that is the case, what does Wallace-Wells make of the defeats of Michael Steele, Ken Blackwell, and Lynn Swann on election day? Are the voters of Marryland, Ohio, and pennsylvania racists who for having rejected these highly qualified African American Republicans? Or does the presumption of bias only apply to votes against Democrat candidates like Obama, Clinton or (as happened Tuesday in Tennessee) Harold Ford?

And I cannot help but notice that Wallace-Wells gives dismissively short shrift to the possibility of a Secretary of State Condoleezza as a presidential candidate, despite the fact that she currently sits just four heartbeats from the Oval Office. Too bad he doesn't consider the implications of the reservoir of support that exists for Rice among conservative Republicans -- including this conservative white man -- if she would even hint that she were interested in making a presidential run. Nor does he consider that Rice is the name most often heard as a potential Vice Presidential pick in 2008 even if she doesn't seek the nod for the top spot.

Could it be that he, like most left-wingers, believe that membership in the GOP revokes the membership cards of the offender in the black race and the female sex?

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